President Donald Trump’s campaign a year ago envisioned an election scenario where the incumbent president expanded the boundaries of modern electoral politics by winning every state he won four years ago and adding half a dozen others.
Their ideal election now a distant dream, Trump’s advisers in the final weeks of the campaign, mapped out more dire possibilities showing ways their candidate could lose key states like Florida and still win reelection by conquering a series of Upper Midwest states.
One scenario has Trump losing Florida and Arizona but still receiving 270 electoral votes, the minimum needed to win. The other shows Trump losing North Carolina and Florida and receiving 272 electoral votes.
“Now, by no means do we think the president is not going to carry Florida,” director of battleground strategy Nick Trainer cautioned reporters during a recent virtual briefing in which he presented the potential election maps — including two that had Trump losing Florida.
Campaign manager Bill Stepien immediately jumped in to reiterate: “Let me say it again: The president will win Florida.”
But with Florida’s registered Democrats for the first time requesting hundreds of thousands more mail-in ballots than Republicans, overseas ballots going out on Sept. 19 and polls showing a tight contest in the nation’s most populous swing state, a Trump loss is being considered as a possibility. The Trump campaign is considering pathways to the White House that do not include Florida.
A defeat in Florida would trigger a set of circumstances that just one Republican nominee in the last 100 years has been able to emerge from victoriously. Former President Calvin Coolidge in 1924 lost Florida but won the national election.
Without Florida’s 29 electoral college votes, Trump would be completely reliant on a trio of Upper-Midwest battleground states he narrowly won in 2016 — Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — and would need the electoral votes of at least one additional battleground state he previously lost, such as New Hampshire or Minnesota, in order to win a second term.
In all five of those states Trump is in worse shape than he is in Florida, where most public polling is within the margin of error. He trails Biden by four or more points in each of them, according to Real Clear Politics polling averages.
Still, the Trump campaign insisted that the sitting president could lose a combination of Florida and the swing state of Arizona, a total of 40 electors, or Florida and the battleground state of North Carolina, a total of 44 electors, and still cross the 270-vote threshold.
Trump bested Democrat Hillary Clinton in all three states in 2016, winning the presidential election with a total of 306 electoral votes.
“We are convinced that we’re not in 2004 anymore. This map should do it,” Trainer said, of a scenario in which Trump loses Florida and North Carolina but still wins. “If President Bush hadn’t won those states in his reelection, he would have been a one-term president. But again, this president has shown the Republican Party he’s able to compete in new states.”
Democrats have argued for years that Florida is a firewall against a second term for Trump.
“There is no realistic path to a second Trump term without Florida,” states a polling memo released this month on behalf of the pro-Biden Unite the Country Super PAC by polling firm GQR.
The firm, which polled the state from late August through early September, found Biden ahead of Trump in Florida, 51% to 46%, thanks to massive leads among Black voters, college-educated white voters and non-Cuban Hispanic voters. Other polls have found the race in Florida statistically too close to predict.
“Biden’s path focuses on holding college educated whites, increasing his support among non-Cuban Hispanics to Clinton levels and turning out African Americans,” the memo states.
Steve Schale, the Tallahassee-based CEO of Unite the Country, said in an interview that while mathematically it’s possible for Trump to win reelection without Florida, it’s highly unlikely given that a loss in Florida likely means Trump slipped with the midwestern transplants who have moved in large numbers to Central Florida and the Tampa Bay area.
“The reality is, for Trump to win without winning Florida would require him to win all three of the upper Midwestern states,” he said. “And the odds of that happening without him also winning Florida are really low in part because the same people that are swing voters in Florida, most of them come from those states. There’s a lot of similarity between the two.
“You can come up with the math that doesn’t include Florida but it’s very, very difficult,” he said.
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Source: McClatchy DC